Your child is in college. Congrats! This is a major accomplishment not only for your son or daughter but also for you as a parent. You’ve supported them for nearly two decades, helping them navigate scary first days of school, difficult school assignments, and emotional teenage years.
But now, you’re probably feeling mixed emotions. You’re proud and excited for your kids, but you’re worried. Are they eating well? Are they getting enough sleep? How can you be there for them?
Discover how to support college students while they’re away at school by reading the guide below.
Parental Support for College Students: How Best to Help
It can be tricky to figure out how to provide parental support without overstepping boundaries. You want to give your child the time and space to grow and navigate adulthood on their own, but you also want to make it clear you’re available to help, should they need it.
Be a Sounding Board
Often, “no news is good news,” but the silence can be deafening when you don’t hear from your college student. While it may be tempting to check on them constantly, let them do the talking when it comes to their daily lives.
Resist the temptation to criticize or try to fix the problem. Of course, you’ll want to know what is happening and how they are doing, but asking too many questions can seem judgemental or interrogative. Your questions might even steer them into giving you the answers they think you want to hear. Instead, wait until they come to you and then just be there to listen.
Often, your adult children aren’t looking for advice—they just want to vent to a familiar person they know will understand. By providing loving, non-judgmental support, you’re helping to ensure your child will feel comfortable asking for your help in the future.
Emphasize Your Support
For most traditional students (those entering university right after graduating from high school), making their own decisions is a new experience. It’s important to reiterate your support during this time. Letting them know you will always love them and be there for them no matter what is crucial. You’ll be better able to help them work through their problems—whether they failed a course, broke up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or fought with a roommate—by providing a caring, open channel of communication.
Ride It Out
The college years are a time of great discovery for young adults, which often includes figuring out where they fit in. During this time, it may seem like their entire identities are in flux—from the clothes they wear and the music they listen to, to the way they speak, and even the beliefs they follow.
Know that this is common; it’s part of the maturation process. Growing up involves some trial and error, and it can take a little experimentation to figure out who you are and what path to lead. You may want to roll your eyes at some of the more radical new life philosophies they spout, but resist doing so in front of them. Remember that just like the dozens of other developmental stages they’ve gone through in their lives, this one too shall pass.
Being able to physically see your child can be a welcomed relief, because it can give you a better grasp on how they are doing. Since video chatting has gone mainstream, it’s become much easier to check in with each other. It’s also convenient to squeeze in some quality time while you’re far apart.
Have a pizza delivered to them and one to yourself, and make it a pizza party. Send some delicious Cookie Comforts, and “share” some cookies and cocoa to chat. Have a movie night or watch your favorite show. There may be distance between you, but you can still recreate closeness by sharing a laugh or enjoying your company.
If you have the time and your budget allows for it, take a trip to see your kid live and in the flesh. If they are not too far away, a quick trip to take them out to dinner or go for a walk can help strengthen your bond. Perhaps make a weekend of it and get a room at a hotel with a pool so you can offer them a little fun and relaxation. You’d be amazed at how much a hug can help you both.
What College Students Want You to Know
Educating yourself on the wants and needs of your adult child can be one of the most helpful things you can do to show parental support for your college student.
College students want you to know that:
- We’re changing, but it’s okay.
- We need to make our own decisions, but we love your input when requested.
- Sometimes we get sad and will need your support.
- We’re allowed to change our minds.
- We may be undecided about a lot of things right now, including our majors.
- Above all else, we love and miss you (even if we don’t always say so).
While college students always appreciate cash, they also love receiving a surprise gift box, especially when they’re feeling homesick. Treat your child to some home cooking by sending a College Care Package filled with delicious and nutritious soups, comforting artisan rolls, and sweet and savory cookies.
By serving up one Spoonful of Comfort at a time, you can turn a homesick frown into a hopeful smile.